October Focus: Finding Balance in Practice and Life

 

 

With the return of Fall and the recent Autumnal Equinox, the change of the seasons and the harvest time invite us to think about what is and is not working for us. It’s time to reap what we’ve sown over the summer months. For me, after the busy-ness of the summer the change of the seasons is like a fresh breath of cool air.

Autumn is a time to reassess and come into greater balance with yourself and the external world.

Summer always feels so frantic, and with the returning of the fall-time routines (back to school, less travel) we can view this as an invitation to come into balance.

Throughout our day we’re given the opportunity to find physical balance many, many times. Every time we take a step we’re suspended in a short moment of balance before our foot comes back into contact with the ground. In yoga, we’re given many moments to find balance in poses like tree pose or warrior 3. These poses ask for our complete focus and attention as we try to maintain our connection with the earth on one foot.

A balancing pose isn’t a destination that one can find, but rather a constant recalibration process as we try to find a sense of stability. Our muscles work hard to find harmony in the pose. Our focus and attention become attuned to maintaining an upright position. It’s easy to become frustrated if we fall out of our balancing posture, especially if everyone else seems to be effortlessly maintaining the pose.

In these poses, there is an opportunity to play with your own boundaries around feeling safe even when things are wobbly. With practice, you can maintain a sense of steadiness through the constant calibration and feedback from your body. The wobbles become smaller and your body adjusts to them more readily.

Let’s take a moment to look at the physical mechanisms of balancing

Good balance depends on coordination between your eyes (visual system), your muscles, tendons and joints (proprioceptive input), and the organs of the inner ear (vestibular system) to tell you where you are in space.

Proprioception is the ability to know where you are in space. Taken from the Latin proprius, meaning “one’s self” and capio, “to take or grasp”, proprioception is the sense of the relative position of one’s own parts of the body.

Maintaining balance becomes much more challenging when we close our eyes and take away our visual input.  The added challenge of adding closed eyes to a balancing posture takes away one of our methods of input (visual system) and becomes an opportunity for us to further hone our awareness of where our bodies are in space. This added challenge increases our proprioceptive awareness.

This knowledge of where your body is in space can be a game changer in real-life situations such as walking on a slippery or uneven surface. With practice, we learn to trust our bodies and our balancing capabilities and become more resilient over time.

With an intentional movement practice, there is always an opportunity to take what you learn about your body and your self on the mat to your life outside the yoga studio. Learning to understand the constant changeability and recalibration of your body by practicing balance can help you understand your own resilience as things in life shift. Balancing in class can help you understand how you can work toward harmony in other parts of your life.

Benefits of balance poses:

  • Improves strength
  • Improves focus
  • Improves proprioception
  • Helps you to get out of your head and more into your body

Balancing in yoga can look like many different things. For example:

  • Standing poses balancing on one foot such as Tree pose or Warrior 3
  • Maintaining a solid center while transitioning from one pose to another
  • Balancing on your hands in handstand or crow pose
  • Finding balance through the spine and heart in backbends
  • Focusing on finding an equal length inhale and exhale
  • Closing your eyes in horse pose and finding a sense of stability and grounding.

We’re looking forward to exploring all things balance related in our October classes.  Check out our schedule of classes at our Astoria yoga studio.  Here are a few of our favorite poses that incorporate balance:

Written by Amanda Barp

Amanda Barp is co-founder of Watershed Wellness, a licensed massage therapist with 10+ years experience, a registered yoga teacher with a passion for learning and teaching about the human body & how to feel at home in it.